A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners, offering limited liability, while a company is a broad term referring to any business entity.

When it comes to the world of business, the terms “corporation” and “company” are often used interchangeably. However, there are important distinctions between these two entities that every entrepreneur and business owner should understand. In this article, we will explore the difference between a corporation and a company, shedding light on their unique characteristics and legal implications.

Key Takeaways

  • A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, possessing numerous rights and responsibilities that mirror those of individuals.
  • One of the notable features of a corporation is limited liability, protecting shareholders from personal debts and financial obligations.
  • A company, on the other hand, is a more general term that encompasses various business entities, including corporations.
  • Incorporation involves filing articles of incorporation with the state, appointing a board of directors, and adhering to state and federal laws.
  • Corporations are subject to double taxation, while other companies may be taxed as pass-through entities.

Definition and Characteristics of a Corporation

A picture of a meeting of the board of directors of a corporation


A corporation is a legal entity created by individuals or a group of people with a common goal. It is distinct from its owners and possesses many of the same legal rights and responsibilities as individuals. One of the key characteristics of a corporation is limited liability, which means that the shareholders are not personally responsible for the company’s debts. Corporations can be for-profit or not-for-profit entities and are regulated by state and federal laws. They can engage in contracts, own assets, and hire employees, among other activities.

Incorporation Process and Requirements

A picture of a  company

When establishing a corporation, the process of incorporation must be followed, which involves fulfilling certain legal requirements. These requirements ensure that the corporation is formed properly and complies with the relevant regulations. Let’s take a closer look at the incorporation process and the necessary steps to form a corporation.

Filing Articles of Incorporation

The initial step in forming a corporation is filing the articles of incorporation with the state where the business will be registered. The articles of incorporation are a legal document that establishes the existence of the corporation and provides information about its purpose, structure, and other relevant details. The specific content required in the articles of incorporation may vary by state, so it’s crucial to consult the state’s guidelines and complete the necessary paperwork accurately.

Completing the Required Paperwork

Along with the articles of incorporation, additional paperwork must be completed to fulfill the legal requirements for incorporation. This paperwork may include various forms, such as bylaws, organizational resolutions, and agreements. These documents outline the internal rules and procedures of the corporation and define the roles and responsibilities of shareholders, directors, and officers. It is essential to carefully prepare and review these documents to ensure compliance with state laws and proper governance of the corporation.

Issuing Stock to Shareholders

One critical aspect of forming a corporation is issuing stock to the shareholders. Stock represents ownership in the corporation and grants certain rights to the shareholders, such as voting rights and the potential to receive dividends. The number of shares and the distribution of stock among shareholders must be determined and documented in accordance with the corporation’s capital structure. This step helps establish the ownership structure of the corporation and provides a mechanism to raise capital for the business.

Election of the Board of Directors

After the stock is issued to the shareholders, they have the responsibility to elect a board of directors. The board of directors plays a vital role in overseeing the corporation’s activities, making important decisions, and providing strategic guidance. Shareholders typically hold an annual meeting to elect the directors, who are accountable for managing the corporation’s affairs in the best interest of the shareholders and the company as a whole.

Turning a private corporation into a public corporation involves additional complexities, as it requires compliance with federal laws and regulations regarding the issuance of stock to the public. Public corporations must provide full disclosure of financial information and adhere to stringent reporting requirements to protect the interests of shareholders and the general public.

Operating and Managing a Corporation

Once a corporation is established, it needs a structured system to ensure its smooth operation and management. This involves the active involvement of both shareholders and a dedicated board of directors.

Shareholder Involvement

The shareholders of a corporation play a crucial role in the overall governance and decision-making process. They typically hold an annual meeting to elect the board of directors, who will oversee the corporation’s activities.

Board of Directors

The board of directors is responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the corporation and executing its business plan. They hire senior management to handle the day-to-day operations and ensure the corporation’s goals are achieved.

While shareholders are not personally liable for the company’s debts, directors have a duty of care to the corporation. This means they must make informed decisions and act in the best interests of the company. Failure to fulfill these duties can result in personal liability for the directors.

Here is a brief overview of the duties of directors:

  • Set the corporation’s strategic direction and long-term goals
  • Appoint and supervise senior management
  • Ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
  • Review and approve financial statements
  • Protect shareholders’ interests
  • Maintain transparency and accountability

Operating a corporation requires a close partnership between shareholders and the board of directors. Their combined effort ensures effective decision-making, goal achievement, and the overall success of the corporation.

Differences in Taxes and Tax Structures

One of the major differences between corporations and other types of companies is the way they are taxed. Understanding the tax implications is crucial for entrepreneurs and business owners when deciding between a corporation and a company.

Taxation of Corporations

Corporations are considered separate legal entities and are subject to corporate tax. This means that the profits earned by the corporation are taxed at the corporate level before any distributions are made to shareholders. However, when the corporation distributes dividends to its shareholders, those dividends are also subject to taxation, resulting in double taxation. This can significantly impact the after-tax profits available to shareholders.

Taxation of Companies

On the other hand, many types of companies, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), are taxed as pass-through entities. This means that the profits and losses of the company are not taxed at the company level. Instead, they are “passed through” to the owners and taxed at the individual level. As a result, the owners of companies like LLCs pay taxes on the business’s profits on their personal tax returns. This avoids the issue of double taxation that corporations face.

Tax Implications

The tax structure you choose can have significant implications for your business’s profitability and your personal finances. While corporations may face double taxation, they often benefit from lower corporate tax rates and have more opportunities for deductions and credits. Additionally, corporate shareholders may be able to defer taxes on profits that are reinvested back into the business.

On the other hand, pass-through entities like LLCs have the advantage of avoiding double taxation. The profits and losses “pass through” to the owners, and they pay taxes on their individual tax returns. This allows for more simplicity in tax reporting and can result in lower overall tax liabilities, especially for small businesses.

Ownership and Stockholders

In a corporation, shareholders own the company by holding shares of stock. They can be either single or multiple owners, depending on the type of corporation. Shareholders invest money in the company and their ownership percentage is determined by how many shares they have.

Shareholders can buy or sell shares, which affects their ownership stake. Buying more shares means they own more of the company, while selling shares reduces their ownership. This flexibility attracts investors and helps corporations raise money by selling stock. Even if a shareholder leaves, the corporation continues to exist independently, ensuring stability and smooth transitions in ownership. Understanding the ownership structure and shareholders’ rights is crucial for corporations to maintain transparency and good relationships with their owners.

Ownership Structure Description
Multiple Shareholders Corporations can have multiple shareholders who collectively own shares of the company.
Single Shareholder Some corporations may have a single shareholder who owns all the shares in the company.

When a business incorporates, one major benefit is the limited liability it gives shareholders. This means shareholders are protected from being personally responsible for the company’s debts and legal troubles. If the business faces financial problems or lawsuits, shareholders’ personal assets like their homes or savings are safe.

However, there are exceptions. Shareholders might still be liable if they’re involved in fraud or negligence. Despite this, incorporating offers shareholders peace of mind and financial security, letting them focus on their business without worrying about risking their personal assets.

Key Points:

  • Corporations provide limited liability protection to shareholders.
  • Shareholders are not personally liable for the corporation’s debts and legal obligations.
  • Personal assets of shareholders are protected from business liabilities.
  • Shareholders may still be held personally liable in cases of fraud or negligence.

Duration and Permanence of a Corporation

Corporations have a unique advantage: they can last forever. Unlike other types of businesses, corporations don’t end if the owners change or someone leaves. This means the company’s contracts, assets, and duties stay the same no matter what happens to the people involved.

This lasting nature gives corporations stability and lets them plan for the long term. Shareholders, employees, and partners can trust that the company will keep going and meet its commitments, even if key individuals change.

Benefits of Perpetual Existence

  • Stability: The perpetual existence of a corporation ensures stability in the business landscape, reducing the risk of disruption due to changes in ownership or management.
  • Continuity: By outlasting individual stakeholders, a corporation can maintain ongoing relationships with customers, suppliers, and other business partners, fostering trust and longevity in its operations.
  • Transferability: The ability to transfer ownership in a corporation without affecting its legal status allows for easier succession planning and facilitates the attraction of new investors.

Overall, the perpetual existence of a corporation provides a solid foundation for long-term business growth and success. It ensures that the corporation can navigate various challenges and capitalize on opportunities while maintaining its legal presence in the business world.

Corporations engage in various legal processes and interactions throughout their existence. These processes are essential for ensuring compliance with regulations and maintaining legal standing. Key legal processes for corporations include:

Filing Annual Reports

Corporations are typically required to file annual reports with the relevant government agencies. These reports provide important financial and operational information about the corporation’s activities. Filing annual reports helps maintain transparency and ensures that the corporation is adhering to legal obligations. Failure to submit annual reports can result in penalties and potential legal consequences.

Complying with Regulations

Corporations must adhere to various regulations at the state and federal levels. These regulations encompass areas such as taxation, employment, environmental protection, and consumer rights. Compliance involves understanding and following applicable laws, obtaining necessary permits and licenses, and implementing appropriate policies and procedures. Ensuring compliance helps protect the corporation from legal liabilities and reputational damage.

Corporations may find themselves involved in legal proceedings for various reasons. These proceedings can include both civil and criminal cases. For example, a corporation may sue another party for contract disputes or intellectual property infringement. Conversely, the corporation may face legal actions from customers, employees, or regulatory bodies. Legal proceedings require corporations to engage legal counsel, gather evidence, and present their case in court.

Bankruptcy and Liquidation

In dire financial circumstances, a corporation may undergo the processes of bankruptcy or liquidation. Bankruptcy involves legally declaring the corporation’s inability to pay its debts and can lead to the restructuring or liquidation of assets to repay creditors. Liquidation, on the other hand, involves the orderly winding down of the corporation’s operations and the distribution of assets to stakeholders. These processes are complex and involve various legal requirements to ensure fairness and protect the rights of creditors and shareholders.

Throughout these legal processes and interactions, corporations rely on legal professionals, such as lawyers and attorneys, to navigate the complexities of the legal system.


It’s important for entrepreneurs to understand the difference between a corporation and a company. While these terms are often mixed up, they have unique legal rules. Creating a corporation has advantages like limited liability and raising money by selling stock, but it also comes with specific legal steps and tax rules. It’s smart to think about your business goals and risks before deciding if you want a corporation or another type of company. Getting help from a lawyer or business advisor can make sure you understand everything well. Ultimately, the choice depends on what’s best for your business plans and how much risk you’re comfortable with. Taking time to think about these things will help you make the right decision for your business.


What is the difference between a corporation and a company?

A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners, while a company is a more general term that can refer to any type of business entity, including corporations.

What is a corporation?

A corporation is a legal entity created by individuals or a group of people with a common goal. It possesses many of the same legal rights and responsibilities as individuals and has limited liability, meaning the shareholders are not personally responsible for the company’s debts.

How is a corporation formed?

The process of creating a corporation, known as incorporation, involves filing articles of incorporation with the state where the business will be registered. Each state has its own laws and requirements for incorporation, but most involve submitting the necessary paperwork and issuing stock to shareholders.

What is the role of a board of directors in a corporation?

The board of directors is responsible for overseeing the corporation’s activities and making important decisions on behalf of the company. They are elected by the shareholders and hire senior management to oversee the day-to-day activities of the corporation.

How are corporations and companies taxed differently?

Corporations are taxed as separate legal entities, and their profits are subject to corporate tax. In addition, when the corporation distributes dividends to its shareholders, those dividends are also subject to taxation, resulting in double taxation. Many companies, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), are taxed as pass-through entities, where the profits and losses are passed through to the owners and taxed at the individual level.

What is the ownership structure of a corporation?

Corporations can have multiple shareholders or a single shareholder. Shareholders hold shares of stock, which represent their ownership in the corporation. They can buy and sell shares, potentially increasing or decreasing their ownership percentage in the company.

What is limited liability protection in a corporation?

One of the advantages of incorporating a business is the limited liability protection it provides to shareholders. As separate legal entities, corporations shield shareholders’ personal assets from business liabilities. This means that if the corporation incurs debts or faces legal action, shareholders are not personally liable and their personal assets are protected.

Can a corporation exist indefinitely?

Yes, corporations are designed for perpetual existence, meaning that they can continue to exist indefinitely, even if ownership or management changes over time.

Corporations consistently interact with legal systems throughout their existence. The incorporation process involves submitting foundational documents and fulfilling ongoing legal requirements, such as filing annual reports and complying with regulations. Additionally, corporations may engage in legal proceedings, such as suing or being sued by other parties. In certain circumstances, a corporation may undergo the process of liquidation or bankruptcy if it fails to pay its debts or faces financial collapse.

Why is it important to understand the difference between corporation and company?

Understanding the difference between a corporation and a company is important for entrepreneurs and business owners. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they have distinct legal and structural nuances. Incorporation provides benefits such as limited liability protection and the ability to raise capital through the issuance of stock. However, incorporating a business also comes with specific legal requirements and tax implications. By considering the details and characteristics of each entity, individuals can make an informed decision about whether to establish a corporation or a different type of company for their business ventures.


Image Credits

Featured Image By – master1305 on Freepik

Image 1 By – javi_indy on Freepik

Image 2 By – storyset on Freepik

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